A Rising Tide Lifts All Wonks, A Brazen Anti-Equity Play, Navratilova v. Swisher, Affirmative Action’s Impact, And Tom Gold v. A Fish!

A Rising Tide Lifts All Wonks

On a new WonkyFolk Jed and I talk with David Griffith from Fordham about their new report on education competition in the nation’s largest school districts. And David shows off his fancy home for us. It’s an interesting report with some counterintuitive findings and also questions for policymakers and advocates. One issue we get into is just how much penetration you should expect from competition anyway? Important with the sky is falling rhetoric.

You can watch or listen here, or below, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Some top spin on this one.

This interview with tennis icon Martina Navratilova by Kara Swisher is worth your time if you want a textured and measured discussion about transgender athletes and sports. One issue that comes up is this criticism that a lot of people suddenly energized on this issue are nowhere to be seen on all the various gender equity issues affecting women’s sports. I think that’s true – in different degrees – of both sides. Women’s sports are still not equitable with men’s sports and there is a lot of work to do there. Yet it’s also irrelevant to the core questions of inclusion, fairness, and safety that must be balanced on this particular question with regard to different sports and levels of competition. This is one of these issues where if someone has a really simplistic take, either way, they probably haven’t thought very hard about it.


I was stunned when I learned of this Republican plan to literally transfer millions of public dollars from schools serving Black students to schools serving white ones. It’s absolutely brazen. 81 percent of white students will benefit but only 56 percent of black students and 66 percent of Hispanic students from this plan -that carries a total cost as high as $1.9 billion. Just wow. They’re really doing this stuff.

Actually, this is the plan New York Democratic leaders and the teachers union cooked up to lower-class size in New York City. According to this Urban Institute analysis 81 percent of white students will see their class size reduced but only 56 percent of Black students. At a cost of nearly $2 billion. Yeah, equity! Local leaders are concerned about the costs and implications for basic fairness in that city. The policy is basically what you’d come up with if you asked AI to develop a class size policy at odds with the research on effective class size policies. For instance, the money is not focused on the early grades or poor kids but instead spread like peanut butter across the city. It’s sort of astounding it’s not getting more attention given what a reverse equity play it is.

Across the board class size reduction is a great policy – if you live in a vacuum. In practice, it creates issues like this and raises serious questions about ROI for this kind of money. Democrats, who remain tethered to producer interests in education, still struggle with the basic jobs versus education quality dynamic in public education. Layer on the class politics of New York and then you get an unfolding disaster like this.

My point here is not that the Republicans are great on education, they’re not. It’s merely that if you’re looking at education policy through a red or blue lens these days you’re missing the action because neither party is distinguishing itself and at the same time both have interesting leaders trying to do interesting things. This, however, is not one of those things.

Proles cost too much!*

This new study from Brookings is kind of wild. It argues that class-based affirmative action won’t work because there isn’t enough aid to support low-income students. It’s a wierd argument if you’re concerned about social mobility because it seems to sort of give the game away that as previously constructed affirmative action was benefiting more affluent and often already advantaged kids, which it was. But before the SCOTUS case saying that got you branded as anti-diversity. Now it makes you what, some sort of clear-eyed realist? An advocate for diversity even? Yes, a lot of these schools are down to their last billion or two, times are tough, but it seems like we can do better here? And to their credit some schools are.

*Try to imagine that headline in this guy’s voice.


This Washington Post article about students choosing colleges is intended to spin you up about the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision. Me? It spins me up about the (lack) of navigation and guidance support we provide to students and how we even talk about schools in the first place. The basic architecture of the piece tracks two high school seniors, a white guy and a Black guy, as they navigate college applications this year. They both think the affirmative action decision will affect them – in different ways. Yet there is a good chance both are wrong, and too few people seem to be telling them that.

Colleges are still seeking to create diverse classes and the Supreme Court explicitly allows students to talk about their race in essays and how it affected them. Meanwhile, at highly selective schools admissions are something of a lottery anyway, and so for any individual the effect of the court’s decision will be less impactful than what it turns out to mean in aggregate. It’s entirely possible the court’s decision is going to turn out to be symbolically important but substantively marginal. The best advice for students remains do what you want to do, regardless of the case, and there are hundreds of amazing colleges in this country so you need not fixate on just the Ivies. The differences in what these two students experience in terms of guidance and support – well, that’s a story I wish more reporters would pay attention to because it matters a lot more to the student experience than anything the court did.

Also, in case you needed a reminder, most students are not deciding which, if any, Ivy to apply to. Most Americans go to schools that will be unaffected by the Supreme Court decision because they take everyone. This is elite signaling journalism.


It’s Friday…so Friday fish porn! I’ve been out with Covid caught during a lot of travel (which it turns out I was coming down with when we did the podcast) so intended to send this earlier in the week but here we are. Since it’s a Friday now, I bring you fish. Here’s Bellwether’s Tom Gold, with a nice striper.

Why is Tom here? Because he’s the latest entry in this archive of hundreds of pictures of education types with fish. Send me yours!

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